DU QUOIN -- Zoe Boznic doesn’t have arms, but that doesn’t stop her from hitting a softball.
The 6–year-old wedged a bat under her chin Friday and swung it with her neck, connecting on the first pitch.
Boznic emulates the "can do" spirit of the third annual NubAbility Athletics Foundation’s All-Sport Summer Camp. She is one of 72 athletes from 24 states participating in the camp at Du Quoin High School.
The camp, founded by former Du Quoin High School pitcher and current Morthland College pitcher Sam Kuhnert, has more than quadrupled in size since the first camp in 2012.
Kuhnert, who was born without his left hand, doesn’t like being told he can’t do something.
“Anytime someone told me I couldn’t do something, I was determined to prove them wrong,” Kuhnert said. “I was told I would never pitch in high school. I did that. I was told I would never get a college scholarship. I did that twice.”
So when Kuhnert was told his camp for limb-different athletes would never fly, he had to give it a try.
“I was told it wouldn’t last very long, and we’re on our third year,” Kuhnert said. “It’s still growing. Next year, we’re expecting twice as many.”
Kuhnert said he enjoys seeing kids do for the first time something they’ve been told they can’t do.
The camp provides instruction from 36 limb-different coaches in 10 different sports.
Eric Westover, 44, of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, has coached at the camp since its beginning, and the camp is the highlight of his summer.
Westover lost his lower right arm when he was 34, but that didn’t keep him off the soccer pitch. He will be in goal for the United States this November for the Amputee World Cup in Mexico.
“After I lost my arm, I just wanted to get back to the things that make me happy and things I loved to do, and being able to play sports was just really one of those things,” Westover said.
Ryan Hamner of Orlando, Florida, is a coach at the camp, but the former Rhode Island University and Lenoir-Rhyne College pitcher said he is learning as much as the kids.
“It’s kind of amazing because I’m a fresh amputee,” Hamner said. “I lost my foot in October, so this camp I’m a coach as well as a participant. I’m learning stuff about myself while I’m helping people learn about themselves. So I’m a student and a teacher.”
Nicklaus Toedebusch, 13, of Centralia, Missouri, has come to the camp all three years and said the camp has taught him to do things he never thought he could do.
Tristen Blake Milam, 14, of Lindale, Georgia, said that’s what the NubAbility camp does best.
“Some kids before they come, they feel they can’t do anything,” Milam said. “They can’t do what people with two hands or two legs can do, but when they come here they feel they are just altogether and can do anything they want.”
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